Be warned: Major spoilers for “Illusions,” episode five of Mare of Easttown, lie ahead.
Most TV series tell you what they’re all about with their first episode. While that’s mostly true of Mare of Easttown — which set up a dour murder mystery in a tightly connected Pennsylvania town where the gloom never lifts and everyone’s always a little buzzed on Rolling Rock — the series’ second episode shook things up by introducing the fresh-faced Detective Colin Zabel. Mare’s eager partner, played by Evan Peters, blew into town with an enthusiasm for crime-solving that evolved into a puppyish crush on Mare, a development that gave Mare some elements of lightness in the midst of all that brooding and murder.
But what Mare of Easttown giveth, Mare of Easttown taketh away. Requiescat in peace, Detective Colin Zabel. Mare will almost certainly never look at a cup of convenience-store coffee without misting up a bit. On the upside, at least we can (probably) eliminate Zabel as a suspect in the murder of Erin McMenamin. But if Zabel’s death, and the apprehension of Katie Bailey and Missy Sager’s kidnapper, clears up the picture in some corners of the story, “Illusions” clouds it up elsewhere. The odds, in other words, have shifted since last week. With two episodes left to go, let’s try to figure out who killed Erin (and maybe why).
Drew Sheehan (Izzy King): 150,000 to 1 (Last week: 100,000 to 1)
With all respect to long-odds gamblers, Drew is looking less and less like the culprit with each episode.
Detective Sergeant Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet): 15,000 to 1 (Last week: 10,000 to 1)
Similarly, “Illusions” makes a wild “the cop was actually the killer the whole time” twist seem outside the realm of possibility, particularly after Mare’s heroic apprehension of the Easttown Kidnapper, a man whose enthusiasm for playing Judas Priest at top volume could not muffle the sounds of his victims or dull Mare’s crime-solving instincts.
Dawn Bailey (Enid Graham): 5,000 to 1 (Last week: 7,500 to 1)
As with Mare and Drew, Mare of Easttown would need to bring in a Twilight Zone–level twist to make Dawn the killer. That said, the revelation that Katie’s kidnapper and Erin’s murderer are (probably) not one and the same does at least narrow the odds on Dawn somehow being responsible. If the killer doesn’t have to be the beefy guy we glimpsed in shadows prior to Mare and Zabel uncovering his kidnapping den, maybe it could be someone of a different shape and size. Even Dawn. (But it’s not.)
Beth Hanlon (Chinasa Ogbuagu), Chief Carter (John Douglas Thompson), Officer Ronald Trammel (Justin Hurtt-Dunkley), Becca (Madeline Weinstein), Geoff (Drew Scheid), DJ Anne Harris (Kiah McKirnan): 3,000 to 1 (Last week: 5,000 to 1)
Similarly, these supporting characters remain extreme long shots. But, hey, can’t rule ’em out. And let’s go ahead and lump DJ Anne Harris in with these unlikely suspects. She seems only to want the best for Siobhan.
Helen Fahey (Jean Smart): 1,500 to 1 (Last week: 5,000 to 1)
Well, well, well: It looks like Helen’s secrets run deeper than her ice-cream habit. At the funeral of his wife Betty, Helen’s neighbor Glen confesses to all in attendance that he and Helen had an affair. It would take a lot of thread and note cards to create a theory that connects Helen to Erin’s murder, but Helen has been revealed as a woman no one knows as well as they think they do. (Even if Helen’s indiscretion just makes Mare laugh.)
Glen Carroll (Partrick McDade): 1,000 to 1 (Last week: Not in consideration)
And, whoa, who’s this dark horse speeding into consideration? Glen probably didn’t kill Erin. But maybe Erin saw something she shouldn’t have seen, forcing him to eliminate her and induce Betty’s “just going out to get Cheerios” heart attack/car accident. Maybe his guilt-ridden speech was designed to throw the investigation off his scent. Glen. Think about it.
Detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters): 1,000 to 1 (Last week: 15 to 1)
Just because Detective Colin Zabel is no longer with us doesn’t necessarily exonerate him of killing Erin. But it probably does.
Siobhan Sheehan (Angourie Rice): 1,000 to 1 (Last week: 1,000 to 1)
Siobhan looks just as suspicious as she did last week. Which is to say, not very guilty at all, but she was among the last to see Erin alive.
Kenny McMenamin (Patrick Murney): 500 to 1 (Last week: 300 to 1)
Kenny seems less and less likely the longer he stays out of the picture stewing in the clink.
Brianna (Mackenzie Lansing): 300 to 1
Brianna, too, seems like an increasingly marginal suspect. (She still sucks, however.)
Freddie Hanlon (Dominique Johnson), Carrie Layden (Sosie Bacon): 250 to 1 (Last week: 125 to 1)
Troubled characters whose substance abuse has led them to some dark acts? Yes. Murderers? The gut just says “no.”
Lori Ross (Julianne Nicholson): 200 to 1 (Last week: 250 to 1)
Here’s where it gets complicated. Last week, the various Rosses of Easttown just looked like well-meaning supporting characters, a concerned bunch mourning Erin’s loss and doing their best to make Mare’s investigation easier. But it looks like the Rosses have skeletons in their collective closet. When Lori sees John whispering to their young son Ryan (Cameron Mann) about “our secret,” she knows something’s wrong. Interrogating Ryan later, she determines that John is “doing it again” and he’s doing it again with “the same woman as before.” Huh.
The Same Woman As Before: 200 to 1 (Last week: Not in consideration)
It looks like the game either has a new player or “the same woman as before” is someone we already know. Either way, something’s as fishy as a day-old tuna-salad hoagie from Wawa.
John Ross (Joe Tippett): 150 to 1 (Last week: 250 to 1)
What’s the deal with John Ross? At best he’s a man who cheats on his wife and draws his son into his web of lies. At the worst… he’s a murderer?
Frank Sheehan (David Denman), Faye (Kate Arrington): 150 to 1 (Last week: 150 to 1)
We still don’t know what was going on with Frank and Erin, but nothing this week has made Frank more or less suspicious. Faye seems unhappy based on what she knows, but what exactly is that? And did she play a role as well?
Someone We Haven’t Met (?): 125 to 1 (Last week: 30 to 1)
Mare of Easttown played this card once — and well — with the revelation of the Easttown Kidnapper and his dive-bar lair. Assuming the kidnapper, however vile, is not Erin’s killer, the show probably won’t play it twice.
Father Dan Hastings (Neal Huff): 100 to 1 (Last week: 50 to 1)
Father Dan appears to have played no part in whatever Deacon Mark did prior to his arrival in Easttown or anything he did in Easttown itself. That said, he doesn’t exactly go rushing to the police when Deacon Mark tells him he saw Erin and disposed of her bike. (But can he go to the police, or was all that a confession? Hmm …)
Jess (Ruby Cruz): 75 to 1 (Last week: 175 to 1), Sean (Sadat Waddy): 75 to 1 (Last week: Not in consideration)
Jess? We thought we knew all there was to know about Erin’s anime-loving best friend. She seemed truly sad at Erin’s loss and tortured by the knowledge that Dylan wasn’t the father of her child. And now? Here she is teaming up with Dylan and his pal Sean to steal from the hiding places in Erin’s room. Did Erin have any true friends, or just a bunch of backstabbers? Her tragic story just gets sadder with each new revelation. (Also, why point Mare toward Frank? What’s to be gained?)
Dylan Hinchey (Jack Mulhern): 8 to 1 (Last week: 200 to 1)
Speaking of Dylan, last week he seemed like an easy suspect to eliminate. He’s a bad guy (maybe even bad enough to consider killing Erin’s baby for a moment) but not the bad guy we’ve been looking for. But hold up: It seems like he was away from Brianna for quite a while the night of Erin’s murder. And what exactly is he after in Erin’s room, beyond the money Erin put aside for her son’s ear surgery? (Again, Dylan is an extremely bad guy.) And does he have secrets beyond those contained in the diaries he, Jess, and Sean burn together? Maybe something related to the photo Jess pockets? Everything’s coming up Dylan right now.
Deacon Mark Burton (James McArdle): 8 to 1 (Last week: 5 to 1)
Deacon Mark seems so guilty it almost can’t be him. He’s vague about the accusations leveled at him in the past and just as elusive about his relationship with Erin. But could it really be him? It just seems too obvious. Still, HBO’s recent past includes a mystery in which the most obvious suspect turned out to be the guilty party. Will Mare of Easttown also end with an anticlimactic helicopter chase? Let’s hope not.
Billy Ross (Robbie Tann): 5 to 1 (Last week: 250 to 1)
One Ross used to seem just as unlikely a suspect as the other, but that changed dramatically this episode. What’s up with Billy? He never disclosed that Erin lived with him for a while, didn’t want to provide many details when Mare starts to probe, and — and here’s the really damning detail — makes an excuse to leave without finishing the Rolling Rock he pulled out of the fridge moments before. No one wastes a Rolling Rock in Easttown. What’s more, Billy now looks like a classic murder-mystery extraneous character, someone who has no real reason to be in the story except to be revealed as the bad guy. But is there someone even more extraneous hanging around?
Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce): 5 to 1 (Last week: 3 to 1)
Which brings us back to area professor/one-hit-wonder author Richard Ryan, who’s not even in this episode. His odds get widened a bit because so many other possible guilty parties come to light in “Illusions,” but what has he been up to while Mare almost got killed pursuing the kidnapper? Maybe he was just writing a second novel at last. As alibis go, that would stand up as well as almost anyone else’s.